Our favorite killer doll is back in a new form: television. SYFY’s Chucky TV show kicks off tonight, and based on the first four episodes screened for critics, franchise fans will love everything this somewhat deranged story has in store. Chucky Season 1 takes things in a new direction for a franchise that is always taking bold swings and reinventing itself, this time with a teen drama angle.
The best part of this latest iteration is that franchise veterans are back. Creator Don Mancini has written every film in the franchise (and directed several), and the voice of Chucky, Brad Dourif, has also been a constant. Both of them were absent from the maligned 2019 reboot, which, while it received decent critical reviews, polarized ardent fans of the series who were displeased with how it all played out. Mancini has been outspoken about the 2019 film, which left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and almost killed the television show.
Thankfully, we’re past that, and now we get a new, fun and exciting outing into the Child’s Play universe. That said, Chucky is accessible to franchise newcomers and long-time fans. While technically serving as a sequel to Cult of Chucky, Chucky introduces us to enough new characters and stories that it won’t matter if you’ve never seen the movies before—although you might miss out on some easter eggs and references.
The back half of the season promises to introduce key players from the Chucky universe like Nica Pierce (Fiona Dourif) and Chucky’s long-time doll girlfriend Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly). Most of the first four episodes revolve around setting up the new saga, characters and letting Chucky get his grip on Hackensack.
Chucky Season 1 provides Charles Lee Ray’s origin story via entertaining flashback segments
One unique component of the show is the origin story of serial killer Charles Lee Ray, the spirit of whom is embedded in the killer Good Guy doll. Each episode takes us back to the days of Charles’ youth in 1965 Hackensack and chronicles his evolution from a weird kid to a cold-blooded murderer.
Chucky Season 1 begins with 14-year-old Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur) buying Chucky at a yard sale for a mere $20. Jake is an outcast and artist who likes to build sculptures out of doll parts. He lives alone with his recently widowed dad, Luke Wheeler (Devon Sawa pulls double duty here, playing Luke and his twin brother Logan). Jake doesn’t have any friends, and everyone at school bullies him, including his cousin Junior (Teo Briones) and his girlfriend Lexy (Alyvia Alyn Lind).
The only person who is even vaguely nice to him is crush, local true crime aficionado Devon Evans (Bjorgvin Arnarson), who hosts a podcast focusing on Charles Lee Ray. Yes, Jake is gay. Chucky is surprisingly astute in handling Jake’s sexuality in that it’s not even a “storyline,” so to speak.
Jake is just gay, and it’s a big deal to the audience, although Chucky does have plenty to say about homophobes and bigots. That’s not surprising, considering Don Mancini is an openly gay man, and the Child’s Play franchise has a long history of queerness—Chucky himself has a genderfluid kid!. It’s nice to see it further explored in this show.
As for Chucky the doll, his presence as the devil on Jake’s shoulder becomes more pronounced over the first four episodes but doesn’t take long to become integral to the show’s chemistry. In other words, you don’t have to wait long for Chucky to turn homicidal.
But, since this is a television show and not a compact 90-minute thriller, we also spend time getting to know these characters. The ones who seem like paper-thin fodder for Chucky in Episode 1 prove to be more interesting and worth investing in by the fourth episode, which I appreciated. It’s a testament to Mancini’s creation and the writing that some of these seemingly awful characters become favorites later in the season.
Chucky Season 1 has a compelling cast of characters
And along those lines, you think it’ll be easy to root for Chucky to kill everyone off. To some degree, it is, but then Chucky becomes more intelligent than you anticipate by dissecting the morality behind these murderous decisions. Will Jake join Chucky and become a killer himself?
Given how terribly everyone treats Jake, it’s easy to see why Chucky’s violent streak is a potentially alluring answer to all of his problems. Kill all your bullies, and there is no one left to torment you. His internal struggle is palpable, and a magnetic Arthur plays into this conflicted aspect of his character with acute uncertainty.
Speaking of acting, I want to credit Lind, who is utterly compelling and charismatic as the vicious Lexy. She brings a great deal of depth to a character that could easily have been one-note.
There are moments when the show struggles to navigate its tonal balance, sometimes veering too heavily into melodrama (especially due to some auspicious musical choices). Once Chucky comes to life at the end of Episode 1, the ensuing episodes feel more confident with the tone and stylistic choices, finding its footing in an even mixture of teen drama and gory camp.
Overall, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Chucky so much, but I had a blast watching all four episodes and the intensity, blood, and drama increased in each one. I can’t wait to see what happens in the rest of the season, especially when Tiffany makes her return. Chucky Season 1 is an absolute blast to watch with compelling characters intriguing moral commentary. It takes the franchise in an exciting new direction.